Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Matrilineality in Meghalaya


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Matrilineality in India

Mains level: Not Much


Central Idea: A tribal council’s order not to issue a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who adopts the surname of her or his father has triggered a war of words in matrilineal Meghalaya.

Matrilineal Society of Meghalaya

  • Multiple tribes in Meghalaya, northeast India, practice matrilineal descent.
  • Khasi and Garo people are the primary tribes discussed in the article.
  • The term “Ki Hynniew Trep” (The Seven Huts) refers to the Khasi people, while the Garo people are also known as Achik people.
  • These tribes have a proud heritage of matrilineality, but there are concerns about the decline of matrilineal traits.


  • Khasi people are an ancient tribe and are considered the largest surviving matrilineal culture in the world.
  • Khasis, along with other subgroups like the Garo, reside in Meghalaya, as well as bordering areas of Assam and Bangladesh.
  • The matrilineal tradition practiced by the Khasi people is unique within India.
  • Matrilineal principles are emphasized in myths, legends, and origin narratives of the Khasi tribe.
  • Reference to “Nari Rajya” in the epic Mahabharata likely correlates with the matrilineal culture of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya.

Rights, Roles and Responsibilities

  • Women play a dominant role in the matrilineal society of Meghalaya.
  • The youngest daughter, known as Ka Khadduh, inherits ancestral property.
  • Husbands live with their mother-in-law after marriage.
  • Children take their mother’s surname.
  • In case a couple has no daughters, they can adopt a daughter and pass property rights to her.
  • The birth of a girl is celebrated, and there is no social stigma associated with women remarrying or giving birth out of wedlock.
  • Women have the freedom to intermarry outside their tribe.
  • Independent, well-dressed, unmarried women enjoy security and prefer not to get married.
  • Many small businesses are managed by women.

Comparison between Garo and Khasi Practices

Bina Agarwal compared the Garo and Khasi practices in 1994. (Aspirants with Sociology optional are bound to remember the sociologist’s name.)

  • Garo also practices matrilineal inheritance and matrilocal post-marital residence.
  • Both tribes accept pre-marital sex by women, but adultery by women is punished.
  • The Khasi practice duolocal post-marital residence, where the husband lives separately from the wife’s parents’ residence.
  • The Khasi have an aversion to cross-cousin marriage.

Roles of Men and Political Representation

  • Mothers or mothers-in-law are responsible for the care of children.
  • Khasi men perceive themselves as having a secondary status and established societies to protect men’s rights.
  • Representation of women in politics, legislative assembly, village councils, and panchayats is minimal.
  • Women believe they handle money matters better and enjoy economic freedom.

Matrilineal, not matriarchal

  • While society is matrilineal, it is not matriarchal. In past monarchies of the state, the son of the youngest sister of the king inherited the throne.
  • Even now in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly or village councils or panchayats the representation of women in politics is minimal.

Issues with the system

  • Some Khasi men perceive themselves to be accorded a secondary status.
  • They have established societies to protect equal rights for men.
  • They express that Khasi men don’t have any security, they don’t own land, they don’t run the family business and, at the same time, they are almost good for nothing.


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